Hohaia takes aim at St Helens

Former St Helens utility Lance Hohaia has criticised Saints for an alleged lack of support as he battled to recover from head trauma following the 2014 grand final.

Hohaia was punched twice and concussed by Wigan prop Ben Flower in the Old Trafford decider two years ago. The playmaker retired six months later as he dealt with headaches and memory loss.

Hohaia claims he wanted an extended break from Super League in 2015 but was encouraged by St Helens to take medication and play on.

The Kiwi still has no memories of that infamous incident in the grand final, which had lasting effects.

“I’ve got almost zero memories of that game,” Hohaia told The New Zealand Herald.

“I don’t remember driving to the ground, the warm up, being in the changing rooms. I had awful headaches, lasting two or three days at a time.

“My head was pounding and I was anxious about why I was feeling that way. I was in a lot of pain and my wife was very concerned.

“Apparently I was repeating myself and forgetting things she told me, which was pretty unlike me. I didn’t want to go back [to pre-season training] but men being men, sometimes we suck it up.

“It was my job. I was still having headaches, trouble sleeping and anxiety but I thought it would resolve itself in time.”

Hohaia returned to the field the following season against Salford, was allegedly concussed again but played on.

“I was knocked out in a tackle but passed the on-field concussion test,” he said.

“I was dazed and struggled for the remainder of that game.”

Hohaia claims continued to suffer blackouts, memory loss and ongoing headaches, in the weeks that followed.

Medical tests were conducted and the utility wanted an extended break, but he says the club allegedly took a different view.

“I had tests but, with concussion and brain injuries, there is not an exact science,” he said.

“The tests were inconclusive but I needed some time. Unfortunately Saints chose not to support me through that time and that hurt me a lot.

“I was always putting the team first but putting myself first was something I had to do for my family. I was offered prescription medicines to help with the headaches.

“I wasn’t comfortable with that, as it was masking a bigger problem. I needed a period of time to heal but I wasn’t given that choice. The option was, take the medication and play … or walk away.”

Hohaia retired in April 2015 but has never considered legal action against St Helens or Ben Fowler.

“I don’t have any hate towards Ben Flower,” he said.

“We have spoken by text and I have accepted his apology. It took a long time to get over it but I don’t want to walk around with hate in my heart for someone who ended something.

“Have I experienced dislike towards him? Yes, of course, but you have to let that kind of stuff go. With St Helens … to not have that support was a really sad feeling for us.

“It felt like they weren’t supporting a person, it was just business. It left a sour taste but St Helens are within their rights to feel how they want about the situation.

“I made the decision that was best for me and my family. I’m trying to look forward to the next chapter of my life and consider myself one of the lucky ones.”

St Helens have denied Hohaia’s claims completely and described them as grossly inaccurate and mailicous. You can read the club’s full statement on the issue here.

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